EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The cold was biting and the ending was bitter, but Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Minnesota’s taste of the playoffs — in just his second season at the helm — has him “more motivated than ever.”
Zimmer and his staff have had a little time to unwind mentally, Vikings players have had a chance to rest, recover, and in some cases, already resume training after a season in which Minnesota won its first NFC North title since 2009.
The Vikings first postseason trip since 2012 ended with a 10-9 loss on the coldest game in franchise history (minus-6 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of minus-25 at kickoff).
In the days after the emotional loss, players and coaches recuperated and looked on as the Broncos claimed Super Bowl 50 earlier this month. With the NFL calendar now flipped to 2016, Zimmer and others across the league have begun working on new resolutions and goals.
“I think the biggest thing for me, the thing I’ve noticed about this season so far, after we lost to Seattle in the playoff game, I feel more determined,” Zimmer said in a recent interview with Vikings.com’s Mike Wobschall. “We almost had a taste of it. I want to get back. I want to start grinding again.
“I want to get that feeling but I want to go farther, so I think I’m maybe more motivated than I even was in my first two years, I think, from just having a taste of it,” Zimmer continued. “That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling this offseason. When the team comes back and we start getting into conditioning and all that stuff, then I’ll think more about how we have to approach it with the team, but I know personally for myself, I feel more motivated than ever.”
Zimmer is 18-14 through two regular seasons, helping a group of young, talented players mesh with savvy vets. He’s instilled more than a thumbprint on a defense that’s vaulted up the NFL leaderboard in multiple categories, but he’s not at risk of complacency.
Yes, he watched the Super Bowl, when Denver’s defense dominated a Carolina team with reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton at quarterback, and yes, Zimmer liked the presence of defense in the be-all, end-all game.
“I do think anytime you have a dominant defense, that you have a chance to win a lot of football games,” Zimmer said. “I think this year we played good defense. I don’t think we were great on defense. We still have a long way to go, but playing good defense gives you a chance to win an awful lot of football games, and the way that they did it was impressive.
“I feel good about the nucleus of our football team, but what we did a year ago really doesn’t matter,” Zimmer continued. “I’ve got a new saying this year, that ‘Good is the enemy of great,’ so that’s kind of going to be my mindset with the team.”
Vikings coaches and the personnel department will turn their attention to the NFL Scouting Combine, where more than 330 prospects have been invited next week.
After that, free agency begins in March, followed by the beginning of offseason workout programs and the 2016 NFL Draft in April. The workout program will culminate with a minicamp in June. Training camps are scheduled to open in July, the same month that the Vikings future home, U.S. Bank Stadium is scheduled for completion.